Communication Breakthrough #7 with Alex Malouf

We all experience ‘lightbulb’ moments of insight or inspiration that shape how we think and work. Sometimes, they are defining moments in our careers. In the IABC EMENA Communication Breakthrough series, our members share their stories in the hope they will inspire your own journey. Welcome to our seventh issue!

Introducing … Alex Malouf

AAlex Maloufn IABC member for two years, Alex is based in the United Arab Emirates and is the corporate communication manager for Procter & Gamble.

Alex’s experience covers corp comms, journalism, PR, IT, crisis comms — and more. He particularly enjoys hearing the rich and varied stories of business communicators globally.

Down below, Alex shares his story on how he and his team enabled a measurable, organisational culture shift by applying best-practice digital communication strategy — and offers some great lessons too.

What’s your specialism, Alex?

I am the corporate communication manager for Proctor & Gamble for the Arabian Peninsula. I’m specialised in digital marketing, internal communications, public affairs and sustainability.

Where were you working when you had your breakthrough moment?

My breakthrough moment was in 2009 when I worked with the Swiss-Swedish electrical engineering company ABB as the communications manager for the Arabian Peninsula. I’d previously been on the agency side working with ABB, and I moved in-house into a role situated in the regional offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

My to-do list was extensive. I wanted to re-energise the function and show management the value of effective communications.

However, I had a communications team who had been lacking motivation and leadership. There were so many organisational messages that were positive — a strong commitment to the region and local communities, local innovation, leadership in manufacturing, sustainable growth — which weren’t being communicated both internally to employees and externally to stakeholders.

I wanted to get the leadership on board, not so much in terms of investments but rather engagement. And, I wanted to work closely with the business units to help them see the value of effective marcomms.

So what was your actual breakthrough?

Moving from agency to in-house changed my perception of how powerful the reach of communications can really be.

We had put in place a powerful intranet which formed the basis of all of our internal communications. I wanted to transform the company’s communications approach from a top-down monologue to a community, where open, respectful dialogue was not only welcome but encouraged.

Working closely with both HR and IT, me and the communications team took a sustained, long-term approach to re-engaging with the company’s 2,000 regional employees.

We initially chose subjects that were considered to be safe by management, and through articles on the intranet we proactively asked employees for their insights and opinions. We didn’t leave anyone out of the discussion, and also printed off articles for distribution to factory workers and on key bulletin boards in the offices. We complemented this online approach with face-to-face events, including focus groups and town-halls with senior management.

What struck me about digital was how fast the conversation would gather pace. Within the space of a couple of hours we’d have dozens of comments on each intranet post. In addition, the real-time usage of analytics helped us understand who was looking at what each day, allowing us to tweak not just the what, but also the ‘when’ of each message that we were sending out.

The management was surprised by the amount of dialogue our approach to internal communications was generating. The organisational culture began to slowly shift, and employees would approach me asking to focus on a certain issue or asking for support in writing their own piece.

Ultimately, research by the HR function found a rise in several metrics which are associated with employee engagement, including increased employee satisfaction, retention and productivity.

Impressive, Alex! Do you have some lessons to share with us?

No matter the organisation, its size or shape, each and every employee does care. They have opinions and views, and they will share these views when they feel valued.

As communicators, we have to support cultural shifts to encourage internal dialogue through developing tools that will encourage debate whilst working with management to explain the benefits and assuage their concerns about promoting openness.

Build up a team of managers who champion your efforts, and who will promote change from within. Listen, adapt and engage. Keep asking questions of everyone around you. And embrace technology. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it makes your job.

Connect with Alex
Twitter: @alex_malouf

Want to share your own story?
Drop us a line on [email protected]
We’d love to hear from you!

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